Commissioners approve economic development board
Now seeks applicants to fill targeted areas
Only a few weeks ago, the Charles County Department of Economic Development unveiled its five year strategic plan to the public and the Charles County Board of Commissioners with a full assessment of the county’s positives and recommendations for improvements.
Now, the department is already taking its first steps to implement some of the recommendations.
The commissioners approved legislation establishing target industries for development in the county and the application process for an economic development advisory board that Darrell Brown, the department’s director, said will “bridge the perceived gap” between the county government and the business community.
The goal of the advisory board is to include the private sector more in governmental affairs and achieve “wealth generation for Charles County and its residents,” according to the resolution.
Having an advisory board would enable the county to easily seek “independent third party advice” from members and create opportunities that may not have been generated otherwise.
“There’s a broader benefit of having an advisory board,” Brown said. “Having business participation is extremely important.”
Representatives from the business and education communities will put in applications and be considered by the department for an advisor y board position.
The department is targeting federal contracting, health services, entrepreneurial development and research development as its four major business sectors in the county moving forward. The advisory board would likely have members involved in those sectors.
The “uniqueness” of the targeted industries has to do with the current assets the county has, Brown said. They provide a frame for the county to work in, he said.
Marcia Keeth, the department’s business development manager for retention and expansion, said the county still has to develop appropriate incentives for those target industries. They can be structured to be beneficial for the county’s targeted industries, Keeth said.
Brown said he hopes to have applications filled by the time the department hosts its next roundtable discussion in the fall.
According to bylaws established for the advisory board, there will be 10 members recommended by the county’s economic development director and approved by the county commissioners.
Each member will serve for a three-year period and members can reapply at the end of their term. At the request of the director or county commissioners, board members can be removed prior to their term’s expiration.
The advisory board will have at least four formal meetings per fiscal year. Each meeting is subject to open meeting laws and will be conducted following Robert’s Rules of Order.
There will be one member from Charles County Public Schools, one member from the College of Southern Maryland, one member from the Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center, three members in corporate level management in Charles County business inside the targeted industries and four corporate level managers of general Charles County businesses.
Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said he is “surprised” that someone from the health care industry is not required to be included as a member of the advisory board despite it being one of the targeted industries. Health care is on the rise in Charles County and around the country, Robinson said.
But Keeth said there will be at least three members from each designated sector included on the board, which leaves room for a member entrenched in health care.
“Any employer would be considered a business here in the county. So somebody like a hospital that wouldn’t be considered commercial would certainly still be considered a business or employer,” Keeth said. “Absolutely they’d be eligible.”
Robinson said the county is also rich in heritage and tourism opportunities, so someone from the tourism industry may need to be included on the board as well.
Robinson said the department should encourage people from all industries to apply for positions and not just targeted industries. Some businesses are not as visible as others in the county, he said, and this could create better opportunities for them.
“It shouldn’t be limited to what you see when you drive up and down the highways of Charles County,” Robinson said.
Brown said the economic development department is “certainly not opposed” to having tourism and other industries apply, and he encouraged it. However, it depends on who applies for the positions, he said, but other industries are certainly within the realm of possibility.
Keeth said that was the exact reason the department left three slots open for other industries, “because we didn’t want to limit them either.”